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DAVID COULTHARD JUNE 25TH, 2000 Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:
David's here right now. It is, actually, apart from the tragedy which we'll come to in a moment, obviously. But on the track this probably has been your best year yet, hasn't it?

DAVID COULTHARD:
Well, absolutely.

DAVID FROST:
Twenty-five per cent of your number ones have come this year.

DAVID COULTHARD:
Yes, this is the highest scoring half-season that I've had and despite the gap between myself and Michael Schumacher it's still looking like there's a good chance for a battle for the championship.

DAVID FROST:
And to what do you attribute that? I mean, in fact I noticed that the team boss was saying, you know, you're obviously driving better than ever before. Is there a reason for that? Were you doing that before the accident or was it something that concentrated your mind, the fact that, as it were, you'd been given added time on earth?

DAVID COULTHARD:
Well there's no question any incident no matter what it is in your life is going to re-focus on what you, you know, the way you address certain things and the amount of effort and what you put into it. But actually I don't feel any different. I think I've been driving the same way. I think the biggest difference that there is in the performance this year is that the car's been very reliable. I've only had one mechanical problem this year and in the first half season last year I didn't finish four of the races.

DAVID FROST:
So that's really been a key factor. But at the same time, I mean, you're confident now that you'll be with McLaren presumably again next year.

DAVID COULTHARD:
Well that's obviously what I want to do, it's the best car, it's the best team and it gives you the best opportunity to win races. So it would be silly to want to go anywhere else.

DAVID FROST:
When did you start wanting to be a motor racing driver? Quite young, wasn't it?

DAVID COULTHARD:
Well I started carting when I was 11-years-old. But it was always viewed as a hobby right through until I got into cars at 17 and then it was only then that I actually started to look at it as a profession.

DAVID FROST:
And talking of the subject of crashes, I mean, how dangerous did you decide, do you now feel, how dangerous is your job? Do you feel you are risking your life in every race.

DAVID COULTHARD:
Of course not. If I felt I was risking my life then I wouldn't do it, you know, I'm not that much of a risk-taker that I'd want to drive. In actual fact the sport's very safe nowadays. Of course there is danger involved in the speeds we drive at. I definitely feel more comfortable on the race track than I would driving around London or the M25 or somewhere like that.

DAVID FROST:
Even with those high speeds?

DAVID COULTHARD:
Yes, because we are in a controlled environment, with a lot of safety. Drivers hopefully are all sensible, though some of them vary a little bit, but it's designed for us to drive at those speeds and to hopefully if you make a mistake, recover from it.

DAVID FROST:
Jackie Stewart and others have made a great contribution to safety haven't they?

DAVID COULTHARD:
Yes, Jackie was definitely a leading light in bringing in seat belts and crash helmets and things that we take for granted today.

DAVID FROST:
And what, David, are the other key attributes that, with a racing driver, that separates the very good racing driver from the winner, you know? What is the quality? So often in a sport, when we were talking a week or two ago, it comes back to sort of psyching yourself up, the mental approach. It's almost more important. This was true of soccer, this was true of goal-keeping. How much of it is talent and how much of it is willpower?

DAVID COULTHARD:
I think once you get to the top level it's talent, the majority is the talent of the drivers being able to do a lap is very similar, but it's the mental focus and strength, the pace of the grand prix season between races and testing and the travelling that we do. It's definitely those who are able to manage the line best that I think have the higher level of success.

DAVID FROST:
And as between yourself and your team mate, as it were, as in all teams, is also your rival Mika Hakkinen, won the last two. How do you characterise that relationship? Is it friendship, it can't quite just be friendship, can it? It's rivalry, too. What's the relationship?

DAVID COULTHARD:
I've been team mates with Mika for five seasons now so you can't spend that amount of time with someone without developing a bond and a friendship. But of course it's fiercely competitive and when it comes down to us getting on the race track then, you know, we're not wishing eachother luck, you know, if I can't win then it's better if my team mate's winning because that's taking points away from the other teams. And as a team player you can take some success out of your team mate getting away and getting some points because of course you've contributed to that in terms of development of the car and that sort of thing. But ultimately when the red light goes out you want to win.

DAVID FROST:
And what's been your most memorable win so far?

DAVID COULTHARD:
I'd say Monaco because it's the ultimate challenge for a driver. If you make one mistake there, you touch the wall, and ultimately you won't finish.

DAVID FROST:
But the most difficult, really, in a way, was the way in which you managed to drive in the Spanish grand prix, wasn't it, five days after that crash that we saw there. Was there a sort of, was it important for you to do that in terms of putting it behind you? Rather like people who have a helicopter crash go back up in a helicopter again if they're OK. Was that important to you mentally, do you think?

DAVID COULTHARD:
It never crossed my mind not to race. You know, that's what my motivation in life is, is to compete and to try and win. And to miss a grand prix would be giving up on my opportunity to try and win a champsionship. So if I'm physically fit enough to drive the car then it was never a question. And that's why I was racing there.

DAVID FROST:
Well you were obviously mentally fit as well. I mean, how long did you know your life was in danger? When did you realise there was something wrong?

DAVID COULTHARD:
There was a very short time that it actually took from having the problem to the landing. It was only ten minutes' time from the engine failure to actually coming down.

DAVID FROST:
Ten minutes? So there was ten minutes when you know that something might be going wrong?

DAVID COULTHARD:
Potentially. But of course you don't think in that time that ultimately the tragic events that actually happened were going to happen. You think it's just an inconvenient stop in your schedule as it was not planned, obviously, to go there.

DAVID FROST:
That's right. I mean a couple of times I've been in planes which were in danger, or whatever, and there was never anything like you were in, there never was a crash, but it is curious how calm you are in a situation like that. You somehow don't think about the possible end, do you?

DAVID COULTHARD:
Well absolutely. You put your trust in the professionals and it is tragic the pilots lost their lives but their actions enabled me to be here today and for that, I'm obviously, I'm very thankful.

DAVID FROST:
Of course. And do you think, do you think you can overtake our man Schumacher by the end of the season?

DAVID COULTHARD:
I do believe that's possible and there was a bigger points difference between Mika and Eddie Irvine in the championship last year and it was able to be closed up and go down to the last race. And it will only take six races of finishing in front of Michael or a couple of reliability problems on his side and we're right back in the championship.

DAVID FROST:
Well good luck, good luck indeed. We'd love to see a British, indeed a Scottish winner this year in Formula One. Thank you very much indeed, David.

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